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Weight Loss Perspectives: The Meta, The Details, The Cyclic Response and The One and Done

Wednesday July 22, 2020

I was journaling about weight loss recently, and realized that the cyclic management approach is much more appealing to me than it used to be. In the cyclic approach, people go on a diet “cycle” and then seem to repeat this over and over. The thought of this approach used to drive me crazy. A friend would ask, “hey, have you tried the new diet everybody’s doing?” and I’d instantly feel myself withdrawing and cringing. Fad diets would seem to feed into this completely messed-up idea.

As I started my own weight loss journey, I was heavily biased toward showing how there’s no need for cyclic dieting or fads. And I really wanted there to be one big answer to the weight loss question. Like my INTJ dad, who was also interested in weight loss, my mantra was, “you don’t need all those fad diets! Here’s the one answer you DO need!” In service of that mantra, I’d constantly try to sum up my experiences into a sentence or even just a couple of words.

It’s embarrassing to admit now, but I was over-attached to the one-answer mindset. In pursuit of that one answer, I kept going bigger, in terms of the “big picture.” As soon as there were two, three, or four answers, I’d group them together under one term. As an example, “Keep a journal, keep a spreadsheet, monitor your calories, hydrate a lot, exercise, and measure your progress” became “measure things.” This felt good to my big-picture ego. Things should be kept simple in order to be effective!

But at that point the cycle would start—I put on a bit more more weight, and the fear that my “one answer” might not be working became a fear-based stress factor that helped me put on more weight. I felt like a hypocrite.

“I know this! I know how to lose weight,” I’d tell myself, in frustration. If I knew it already, why wasn’t the answer working?

My conceit was that I thought I could solve the problem A) in that one way, and B) for good and forever. I would then show others how my way was better than the traditional cyclic response.

(It doesn’t help that people will ask you, “how’d you do it,” as if they’re expecting one answer. We do not owe this question a half-assed response.)

I’ve come around to see the big problems with this approach. Human psychology is super dynamic and the idea that there’s “one thing” is not only limiting, but it’s practically a challenge to our own psychology, to the part that speaks in a different voice and seems to undermine our every big plan with its own ideas.

There’s also a logical bind that can occur. As an example, let’s say that “learning” is a helpful method of weight loss to someone. They research, study, and plan, and then boom—weight loss occurs. Well, once they’ve “learned” how to lose weight—the “one” way—they’re not learning anymore. They already learned it. So we can’t be too surprised when that person starts to gain weight again. There’s nothing left to be learned.

This learning example further points at the need to understand that there’s always more to learn. The growth mindset. Sometimes this is really, really difficult to admit. This is especially true, I think, when an INTJ engages with others as a “person who knows things.” The risk they work to avoid is being caught not knowing something. So this identity needs to be altered or replaced in order to prevent this individual from ending up in what could be a truly terrible situation.

Regarding the big-picture, with which we INTJs are so fascinated as a group: My zoomed-out, big-picture approach got so big that I realized I was holding an ever-expanding bag of tricks. Eventually I had to stop trying to label the bag, and look inside the bag, and rearrange things. And the bag is full of little-picture stuff. And much of it is really good little-picture stuff.

So, as frustrating as it was to learn this, I can see that it’s helping me continue to reach my weight loss goals. All of these items need to be addressed: Cyclic responsiveness and analysis of details. And big-picture solutions and meta-considerations. If the meta-combination of the two seems to offer that the problem is solvable in the big picture with this one meta-method, it at least prompts us to concede that the “one” method may also be millions or billions of methods, requiring a lot of blood and tears—depending on one’s perspective.

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